NY Times, Boston Globe falsely reported that Menendez-Clinton bill would bar foreign companies from operating ports

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

February 28 articles in The New York Times and The Boston Globe falsely reported that a bill introduced by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robert Menendez, and other Democratic senators would bar "foreign-owned companies" from controlling operations at U.S. ports. In fact, the bill would prohibit companies owned by foreign governments -- not all foreign-owned companies -- from controlling U.S. port operations.

In a February 28 New York Times article about the concerns raised by the U.S. Coast Guard over the takeover of operations at six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW), staff writers Carl Hulse and David E. Sanger falsely reported that a bill introduced by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and other Democratic senators would bar "any foreign-owned companies from controlling operations at United States ports." Similarly, a February 28 Boston Globe article by Rick Klein reported that "[s]everal [Democrats] filed a bill yesterday to ban foreign ownership of US ports." In fact, as noted by other media outlets, previous reporting by the Times, and Clinton's office, the bill would prohibit companies owned by foreign governments -- not all foreign-owned companies -- from controlling U.S. port operations. DPW is owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates.

Contrary to the Times' and the Globe's reports that Clinton and Menendez's bill would ban all foreign companies from controlling U.S. ports, the ban would actually apply only to companies owned by foreign governments. A February 27 Clinton press release -- titled "Menendez, Clinton Introduce Bill to Ban Foreign Government Control of U.S. Ports" -- explained that the senators "introduced legislation to ban companies owned by foreign governments from controlling operations at U.S. ports. The bill would block the pending sale of U.S. port operations to Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates." (As of this writing, the text of the bill was not yet available on the Library of Congress Thomas database.)

The Times' misstatement contradicted its own previous reporting. A February 21 Times article by David Kirkpatrick and Patrick McGeehan noted that Clinton and Menendez "are expected to introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of terminal operators to foreign governments."

In addition, the February 28 Times article reported that Stewart A. Baker, assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told the Senate on February 27: "We negotiated unprecedented assurances from these two companies [DPW and current port operator Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.] with respect to their security practices, assurances that I think addressed the question of what are their operations."

While the February 28 Times article noted that the letter DPW sent to Baker listing these supposedly "unprecedented assurances" "referred only generally to those security practices," the Times did not note -- as a previous Times article by Sanger and David S. Cloud had reported -- that "most" of the letter's "assurances centered on compliance with existing United States law."

From the February 28 New York Times article, "Coast Guard Had Concerns About Ports Deal, Papers Show":

Administration officials appearing before the Senate panel on Monday said the Coast Guard concerns were alleviated by the assurances from the Dubai company and the current port operator that participation in antiterrorism programs would continue.

"We negotiated unprecedented assurances from these two companies with respect to their security practices, assurances that I think addressed the question of what are their operations," said Stewart A. Baker, an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

However, the letter sent by the company to Mr. Baker, which was made public last week, referred only generally to those security practices and did not directly address the Coast Guard concerns.

[...]

In a separate move, two Democratic lawmakers, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, proposed a bill barring any foreign-owned companies from controlling operations at United States ports.

From the February 28 Boston Globe article, "With port pact, Democrats turn tables":

An agreement reached Sunday to conduct a fresh review of the transaction has assuaged concerns among many Republicans, including [House Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert [R-IL] and [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-TN].

That compromise has slowed the push for congressional action to overrule the decision. But Democrats are keeping up the criticism. Several filed a bill yesterday to ban foreign ownership of US ports.

''It's nonsensical, absurd, to suggest that we're going to work with a country -- let them take over a large part of our port operation -- who consorts with our enemy," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, Boston Globe
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